Archive for the ‘Justification’ Category

Justification by Christ 13

March 10, 2016

1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 11

1._____ Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth, not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing Christ’s active obedience unto the whole law, and passive obedience in his death for their whole and sole righteousness by faith, which faith they have not of themselves; it is the gift of God.

Justification by faith alone is the article upon which the Church stands or falls. Martin Luther

Romans 9:13 Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.” 14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”

The sovereign pleasure of God is displayed in the certain redemption of His elect from their fallen estate to spiritual and eternal life. In this great work, He has done whatsoever He has pleased. It is true, that the unalterable decree of election rendered redemption unavoidable; notwithstanding, it is impossible that it could ever become undesirable, in the eyes of the God of everlasting love. It pleased Him to choose them, therefore it must be pleasing to Him to redeem and possess them. They were chosen to obtain salvation and eternal glory through redemption; and the Son of God was chosen to redeem them from all iniquity to God. Redemption is the great and main channel, though which the river of boundless grace flows out from the eternal throne of the triune God, to an elect world. All spiritual blessings were ordained to reach the sinner, though Calvary’s free and complete redemption. This blessed work of Emmanuel is governed by election; on which, as upon its proper basis, it securely rests. And in this solemn and wondrous transaction of Jesus Christ, good pleasure is for ever displayed. It pleased the Father to appoint the Son, who is the Lord of glory, to ransom His chosen family from deserved death, to endless and given life. It pleased the Lord to bruise Him, on whom, by imputation, He had laid the sins of His elect, in the ancient covenant of His grace. Thus, that a peculiar people should be redeemed, arose from their having chosen from everlasting in Christ, as their heavenly Head. On His Headship by grace, is founded His suretyship in mercy: He, being their Head, became also their Savior. He covenanted as their representative, and therefore died in their stead. He accepted the imputation of their crimes; and by thus being made sin, He became the lawful victim of punitive justice, and the all-sufficient Savior of His lost people. In Him the Father is well-pleased; and by Him, He has done whatsoever His has pleased. (John Stevens)

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Justification 24, Humiliation 8

October 25, 2006

This week we will end our study on justification. I have been trying to draw out how other factors influence how we view and apply the doctrine of justification. We cannot just have a bare doctrine of justification since the Bible sets it out in differing contexts. One context that we have looked at is faith. We have asked questions of what it means to be justified by faith and the corresponding thoughts on not having faith in ourselves. This week, I would like to think of justification in the context of the Gospel. I would like to think of the Gospel in terms of II Corinthians 4:4-6 & Romans 3:23-26 and how it should influence our thoughts on faith and justification.

“4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (II Corinthians 4).”

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom 3)

What we can see from the text of II Corinthians 4 is that the Gospel is all about the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. II Corinthians 4 does not describe what that glory is, but it tells us that the most desirable and beautiful part of the Gospel is the glory of God. The light that cuts through the darkness of the soul is the light of the Gospel, but of the Gospel of the glory of Christ. Now, if no one ever sees the glory of Christ, then no one ever really sees the Gospel. The light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ (v. 4) is God Himself who shines in the heart “to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (v. 6). Now, let us look at this a bit closer. The light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ is what the evil one wants to hide. He is not trying to hide the words of the Gospel as such, but he wants to hide the light of the Gospel. Verse 6 tells us that God has to shine in the heart to give the Light of the knowledge of His glory in the face of Christ. The Glory of the Gospel, then, is the character and beauty of God displayed in the Gospel. The light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ is the knowledge of the glory of God as seen in Christ.

Romans 3:23 tells us that sin is falling short of the glory of God. This instructs us, in light of other Scriptures, that man’s purpose on earth is to glorify God. But man has fallen short of that. What does it take to be saved from the sin of not glorifying God? What is needed is for Christ to display the glory of God in the place of people that do not glorify God. Man has fallen short and needs someone to glorify God in his place. How did Christ do that? By living and dying in a way that glorifies God in the place of sinners. When we see in Romans 3:24 that justification, grace, and the redemption that saves sinners is in Christ, we should ask why that is and how it glorifies God. We must never think of man in and of himself as being the primary reason God saves sinners, but God always does that which glorifies His name the most. If He did not do that, He would not be holy and loving.

We must not forget that we are dealing with justification and the faith that is used as an instrument to justify. Justification, then, is what God does to sinners to save them from hell in a way that exalts His name. In justification which is by grace alone, the glory of His grace (Eph 1:6) is displayed. In the life and cross of Christ we see the glory of God’s grace displayed. When God declares a sinner just, it is based on the glory of His grace and not on the sinner’s worthiness or merit. It is all about the glory of God. When we see that it is Christ that redeems sinners, we must understand that as the glory of God shining in the purchase of sinners. Since it is all of grace, the redemption price is set out in even more glorious terms. The purchase price is the second Person of the Trinity taking human flesh to Himself in order to purchase sinners. In this we see the grace, mercy, justice, and wrath of God displayed. How beautiful to behold the Divine character in the face of Christ at the cross.

In verse 25 we see that the Father set out Christ as a propitiation and that through faith. Notice Christ is only a propitiation through faith. Only faith sees the glory of this and looks at Christ as a bearer of wrath who removes the wrath of the Father and discerns the glory in that. In this we see the character of God in its beauty. How wonderful the love that would love His own glory enough to save sinners in such a way that restored His glory. How marvelous was the justice that would not allow sinners to be saved without a perfect justice shown. How delicious to the soul is the sight of a perfect holiness that did not back off of pouring out His wrath upon His own Son so that He could display His glory in saving sinners. We then see in verses 25 and 26 that the text tells us that God is demonstrating His own righteousness in salvation. He did all of this in the demonstration of Himself so that He could be both just and the justifier. This shines forth the beauty of the Gospel because we can see the beauty of the character of God being put on display through Christ.

While that was but a short time spent on the point, I hope it is enough to suffice. We should now consider the role of faith in salvation from several verses.

“With respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God” (Rom 4:20). “For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, 40 “HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART, SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED AND I HEAL THEM.” 41 These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him” (John 12).

44 “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” (John 5:44).

40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40)

We see from these texts that faith beholds His glory and not anything of self. Faith in Christ is to behold His glory in the Gospel and not see faith as from self. Faith sees His glory and rests and trusts in that glory rather than seek the glory of self. Faith wants the character of God to be seen and not that of self. Faith must behold the glory of God in the Gospel and trust Him rather than anything it can do of itself. We can see from John 11:40 that it is faith that beholds the glory of God in an event. That text is in the context of Lazarus being raised from the dead. Many people saw that Lazarus was raised from the dead, but only a few saw the glory of God in it. The ones that saw the glory were those with true faith. As we see in John 12:39-41, some could not believe because they were hardened. Isaiah, however, saw His glory. Then, in Romans 4:20 we see that those who believe the promise and grow strong are those that grow strong in faith. It is in that growing strong in faith that people see and give glory to God.

Let us look at the other side of this. The fleshly nature looks at Christ and interprets Him and the cross in terms of self. The person in the fleshly nature is all about self and thinks that God and the Gospel are about self too. He sees a glory of the cross and of Christ in a sense, and is perhaps moved to tears and good works by that glory. But that glory the fleshly person sees is of self. He believes the cross is all about him and his worth. So he does not see the glory of God in the cross which means he loves God and the cross only out of self-interest. The cross is meant to slay the pride and self-centeredness of man, but many teach it in a way that actually leads men to focus on themselves. This is all of pride and has nothing of the true Gospel since it does not demonstrate the glory of God.

Faith cannot be seen by looking for faith. One can only know that he sees a deer if he is sees the deer. The proper way to know if you see a deer is to look at the deer, not at self looking at the deer. So we will only know that we believe in Christ if we see Christ. We can only believe the Gospel if we see the glory of the Gospel. Therefore, faith is the sight of the soul beholding the glory of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. While many believe certain facts about Christ and the Gospel, they are lost if they do not see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. After all, that is the heart of the Gospel. So we can see that to be justified before God one has to believe the Gospel, but true believers in the Gospel see the glory of God in the Gospel. We must teach the glory of God in justification or we will not be teaching the glory of God in the Gospel and there will be nothing that is a true object of faith. Satan would then have effectively hidden the Gospel and we would be helping him do so.

Justification 23, Humiliation 7

October 14, 2006

Especially, I discoursed repeatedly on the nature and necessity of that humiliation, self-emptiness, or full conviction of a person’s being utterly undone in himself, which is necessary in order to a saving faith, and the extreme difficulty of being brought to this; and the great danger there is of persons taking up with some self-righteous appearances of it. The danger of this I especially dwelt upon, being persuaded that multitudes perish in this hidden way; and because so little is said from most pulpits to discover any danger here; so that persons being never effectually brought to die in themselves are never truly united to Christ, and so perish.

(1949 Moody edition of The Life and Diary of David Brainerd, p. 354)

In past weeks we have been looking at justification by faith apart from works and the faith that God justifies through. We have most recently been looking at the need for the soul to be broken and humbled by Christ in order to break the soul from any hope of its own strength in order to trust in Christ alone. This will be the last writing on this quote from Brainerd. This week we want to notice the part of Brainerd’s quote where he says “that persons being never effectually brought to die in themselves are never truly united to Christ, and so perish.” We should make it clear that in speaking of dying to themselves he is talking about the self-emptiness and full conviction of being utterly undone in self. While this may seem to be strange language, it is very graphic in its own way.

What can he mean by people being brought to die in themselves and so are never truly united to Christ? The picture that is brought to mind is that from Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” This text shows that an individual and Christ cannot be the life of the person at the same time. The self was crucified and died with Christ on the cross and yet that crucifixion must be carried out in life as well. We must die to self so that the life within us will be Christ. We live by faith in the Son of God and not by faith and trust in self. Man can only have ultimate trust in one master and it is either self or Christ. The unity with Christ that Brainerd talked about is only possible if man is not united to his selfish and self-centered heart. If man loves himself above all, he is united to his own interests above all. If a man loves Christ above all, then he is united to Christ and His interests above all.

Another picture that is brought to mind is from Isaiah 57:15: “For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite.” What the text from Galatians teaches is that the true believer in Christ has been crucified or put to death and only then does Christ live in that person. The text from Isaiah 57 teaches that God only dwells in those who are contrite and lowly. Those that are contrite are those that are bruised and wounded for their sin. Those that are lowly have seen what they are before their Creator. So it is not those that are full of themselves that God dwells in, but only those that are wounded and broken for their sin and have seen themselves for what they are before their Creator. These are the souls that can be united to Christ because the union with self-love and self-interests has been broken.

Another passage that is extremely relevant is from Romans 7: “Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? 2 For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. 3 So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man. 4 Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.” In this text we see that a person has to die to the Law in order to be joined to another. I take this to mean that a person must be dead to earning salvation from keeping the Law or doing the commands of the Law. In other words, a person must be brought to the point of dying to self and its power and strength to keep the Law in order to be married or united to Christ. A person cannot be married (so to speak) to the Law and to Christ at the same time. Men are married to the Law because they believe that they can do something to save themselves. They believe that they are good enough or mostly good enough. A person must die to his own efforts at being good enough and be emptied of self in order to be united to Christ and be filled with Him. We must trust in Him alone.

The danger of not dying to self and its strength and efforts to save self or at least to help save self is that this prevents the soul from trusting in Christ alone. All those that do not trust in Christ alone will perish in eternal torment. Those that have not been united to Christ or married to Christ do not have the benefits that are of utter necessity to salvation. Those that have not been emptied of self are not united to Christ as their Head and so they do not have their sin counted as His and they do not have His righteousness as theirs. This means that their sins are still theirs to suffer for and that they have no righteousness to enter heaven with.

Now some might argue that this still sounds like works to some degree since a person must die to self. I argue that this is simply a giving up on self and anything that self can do to assist God in salvation. Without this giving up, the soul will not trust in Christ alone. Remember that to be justified by faith without works the sinner must trust in Christ alone. The soul cannot trust in anything it can do in order to totally trust in Christ for salvation. Romans 4:5 sets this out with clarity: “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.” The person being justified has three things that are true about him or her. One, s/he does not work at all for salvation. Two, s/he believes in Him. Three, s/he believes in Him who justifies the ungodly. We must die to self and its efforts in order for these things to be true of us and to be justified. We must be dead to and emptied of self, to our ability to keep the Law and our own good works in order for us not to work (even a little) for salvation. We must be dead to and emptied of self in order to believe (totally) in Christ. We must be dead to and emptied of self in order to believe that God would justify us while we are ungodly. To be justified by faith alone we must see ourselves as ungodly in order to believe that He justifies the ungodly. This text is simply devastating to any other position.

Another passage in Romans speaks to the same issue. “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom 5:6). This text tells us by implication that we must believe that we are ungodly in order to believe that Christ died for the ungodly. It is not just that Christ died for the ungodly, but that it is while man is helpless. Man is not just hurt a little where he cannot operate at full speed, but he is helpless. Ephesians 2:1-3 shows that man is dead in trespasses and sin. Romans 7:14 and Acts 8:23 tell us that man is in bondage to iniquity and sin. John 8:34 speaks of those who sin as being slaves of sin. II Timothy 2:26 speaks of those being held captive to the devil to do his will. Colossians 1:13 shows us that to be saved a person must be delivered from the domain of darkness. The picture is not pretty for those who do not see themselves as slaves of sin and the devil, that is, totally helpless. Scripture tells us that in one sense man is dead in sin and in another sense he is the slave of sin and the devil. To put those two together, we see that man is spiritually dead by being a slave to sin and the devil. This gives us a picture of man as helpless.

Men must see themselves as helpless in order to give up on themselves and their own efforts. Helpless people see themselves as ungodly, the slaves of the devil, and totally unable to help themselves. Jesus Christ died for the ungodly and we have no warrant from Scripture to think that a person has a right to believe on Christ for salvation without seeing that s/he is ungodly. Christ is the Physician for sinners and no one else. The patient must give up on his own cures and his own efforts and simply lay at the feet of this Physician and trust in Him alone. There can be no help from this Physician until the patient has given up and died to self and his own efforts to cure himself.

This point must be pressed home. The sinner that does not die to the efforts of self has not died to the Law and so is not joined to Christ. As Paul said about his conversion, “I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died” (Rom 7:9). If a person still thinks that s/he can keep the Law in any way acceptable to God apart from Christ that person has not died to the Law and so will never be married to Christ. The “I” part of Paul and of all who want to be united to Christ must die. All those without Christ do not have eternal life and so perish. All those who want the life of self will have the life of self in hell which is really eternal death. All those that want the death of self and actually die to self have Christ and so have eternal life. There can be only one life inside each person. One life must go. The life of self must die in order to have the life of Christ. This is why we must learn to evangelize seeking the death of self in the people we deal with. This is done by teaching the person the Law in its spiritual applications. This is done by showing people the majesty of God and of how hideous sin is. We are simply trying to show people the truth about themselves so that they can see that they are helpless and ungodly. These are the people that Christ died for and these people and these people alone are those that will trust Christ alone for salvation. They don’t trust in their efforts at dying, but in Christ alone.

Justification 22, Humiliation 6

October 5, 2006

Especially, I discoursed repeatedly on the nature and necessity of that humiliation, self-emptiness, or full conviction of a person’s being utterly undone in himself, which is necessary in order to a saving faith, and the extreme difficulty of being brought to this; and the great danger there is of persons taking up with some self-righteous appearances of it. The danger of this I especially dwelt upon, being persuaded that multitudes perish in this hidden way; and because so little is said from most pulpits to discover any danger here; so that persons being never effectually brought to die in themselves are never truly united to Christ, and so perish.

(1949 Moody edition of The Life and Diary of David Brainerd, p. 354)

In the past few weeks we have looked at the extreme difficulty of being brought to the state of being utterly undone within a person’s self. The person that is not undone within self is still trusting in self and therefore not justified by faith alone. We looked at the danger of people having self-righteous appearances of this which means that people are deceived about justification by Christ alone. Last week, using a sermon by Charles Spurgeon, we saw how it is Christ that prepares the soul for Himself by preparing the heart to be unprepared in order to receive Him by faith alone. The fallen man thinks that he can prepare himself, but only Christ can prepare the heart so that it can see just how unprepared it really is so that it is Christ alone through faith alone that saves. Grace never saves the soul that prepares itself, but only goes to the soul that has nothing of itself to offer. Christ sends the Spirit to convict of sin, righteousness, and judgment in order to strip the soul of any merit in its own eyes. It is the soul that is empty of its own strength that is lying helpless before the cross that cries out for grace apart from the efforts of self.

But Brainerd says that that “multitudes perish in this hidden way; and because so little is said from most pulpits to discover any danger here.” Here is a sobering truth. In the Gospel of John we see that many believed in some way, but they fell away later on. We see in John 6 that many believed, followed Him and yet many left after some hard teaching. “And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” 66 As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore” (John 6:65-66). Why did they leave Christ? Because the person that has not denied self will at some point deny Christ. Many appear to follow Christ for some apparent worldly benefits until something happens that cross the self-centered part of man. Then it appears better to them to stop following Him. Self still reigned.

Jesus taught that many would come to Him crying “Lord, Lord” and then point out all the religious things that they had done (Matthew 7:21-23). But they will be told to depart. Other passages warn people not to be deceived implying that many would be deceived. “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God” (I Cor 6:9-10). Galatians one shows that there is only one Gospel and those who teach differently are to be cursed. But it is a great danger for those who listen to teachers that will not preach the true Gospel or point to the pitfalls of those who are deceived. The Scriptures also warn us constantly of false teachers. We must never think of men being deceived as something distinct from the doctrine of justification by faith alone (without works).

The doctrine of justification by faith alone (without works) is such a wonderful doctrine in that sinners are saved to the glory of God and that the nature of this Gospel instructs us about the doctrine itself. God saves through faith because faith is a spiritual action and that faith requires the emptiness of man to where he is humble and broken. We see people falling on both sides of this doctrine. Many are deceived about justification and think that they can live in sin because it is Christ alone that justifies. Others think that if they are very moral people then they are justified. Both are equally damning. It is on both sides of the issue that people are deceived, but Brainerd is focusing on the one side. It is here that many moral and religious people are deceived. It is here that the hidden snares and traps are laid out by Satan for the unsuspecting to fall into. It is at this point that so many preachers are defective because they do not see the great dangers of the deception of people that profess to trust Christ alone and yet are holding to some hidden reserve of self. They never gave up on self and so never really believed.

As stated in previous weeks, justification by faith alone (without works) is the Gospel which tells us that Christ alone saves. There is nothing that man can do to pay for one sin or obtain one crumb of righteousness toward his own salvation. It is all Christ and Christ alone. For a person to trust in Christ alone, that person must not trust in self at all. This shows the necessity to apply the Law in its spiritual meaning to the soul. That strips man of all self-righteousness and leaves him to rest on Christ or deny the Gospel in some way. But the heart is so deceitful that it will grasp at anything rather than to give up on self. That is why it is Christ that must strip the soul of self because self will never strip itself of self. Whatever the self does, it does it for self. But self loves the appearance of things and not the reality. Self hides under the guise of tears and religious activities. Self hides itself under outward repentances and inward convictions. But self is still hiding despite all the religious things that it does. Self must be exposed by the light of the Word to see what it really is or it will remain hidden and the soul will be damned.

Preachers are not immune to this either. It is so easy for preachers to believe the confessions and professions of the congregation, not to mention their own. It is so easy for preachers to be so concerned about the size of the congregation that they will not go after the hidden self in the people. People tend to leave churches when their self is being exposed. Why is that? Self does not want to be exposed so self will find something wrong with the preacher or the church as an excuse and leave. It is far easier to soothe souls and say nice things to get people to stay. Surely we want people to stay, but we must be like Christ when He spoke hard things to the crowds. Indeed the vast majority left, but at least they were not deceived into thinking that they were followers of Christ.

Preachers must be willing to preach to the heart in order to expose that self to the light of the Gospel. They must be willing to suffer ridicule and small numbers in order to be faithful to the Word of God and to the souls under their care. “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? 10 “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds” (Jer 17:9). Only the Lord really understands the heart and it is His Word that He uses to show people the state of their hearts. We can also remember all the teachings about false shepherds in the book of Jeremiah when they cried “peace, peace” when in fact there was not peace. Preachers are under the same indictment if they are speaking soothing words of peace to souls that do not know God in reality. As in Jeremiah as well, many were teaching the Word but in ways that deceived people. Orthodox preachers can deceive people to if the preaching does not go to the heart and try to distinguish between true motives and loves and the false ones.

Listen to some words from Jeremiah: “For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream. 9 ‘For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them,’ declares the LORD” (29:8-9). Many orthodox ministers will agree to this verse. However, the orthodox have the same problem but in a different way. People are converted just because they say that they believe. People are converted just because they are orthodox in doctrine. People are converted just because they agree with us and back us up. We must remember that God has put ministers over the souls of people and they will answer to Him for that. Orthodox teaching can deceive people just as easily as liberal and heterodox teaching can. The unexposed self deceives self by its orthodoxy.

My plea (though Brainerd) is that preachers would take seriously the doctrine of justification by faith alone (without any works at all) and apply it to their own hearts and the hearts of the people. The Word of God must be applied to the heart so that the hearts of the people would be exposed to themselves. People must see that they want to be deceived and that they want to be saved apart from denying self and being emptied of self and all of its own efforts. What they must see is that the insidious self in them is their greatest enemy and not their friend at all. They must be emptied of all efforts at saving themselves and of obtaining any merit for themselves if they will be saved. But again, it must be stressed that Christ through His Spirit is the only One that can do this. Self will never deny itself in reality though it will try to deny self something in order to deceive self about it. To the degree that pastors do not do this is the same degree that they are guilty of not preaching the Gospel. If we are not willing to preach in ways that try to show people that they are deceived and are taking up self-righteous appearances of religion, then we are not willing to preach the Gospel of justification by faith alone. If Christ saves sinners only by faith in Himself, then self must not have a hand, finger, or even a hangnail helping Him. Salvation by Christ alone means by Christ alone. Self must be utterly undone in order not to try to give a hand. Self is the instrument of the evil one to keep people from seeing the glory of the Gospel and trusting in Christ alone. He tries to get people to trust in some little part of self and overthrow the Gospel in their hearts. Preachers must make this known.

Justification 21, Humiliation 5

September 30, 2006

Especially, I discoursed repeatedly on the nature and necessity of that humiliation, self-emptiness, or full conviction of a person’s being utterly undone in himself, which is necessary in order to a saving faith, and the extreme difficulty of being brought to this; and the great danger there is of persons taking up with some self-righteous appearances of it. The danger of this I especially dwelt upon, being persuaded that multitudes perish in this hidden way; and because so little is said from most pulpits to discover any danger here; so that persons being never effectually brought to die in themselves are never truly united to Christ, and so perish.

(1949 Moody edition of The Life and Diary of David Brainerd, p. 354)

We have been going through this wonderful statement of David Brainerd taken from his diary not too long before he died. He gives us what he considers to be the essence of true religion. I have tried to show how it fits with the great doctrine of the Gospel, justification by faith alone (without works). In order to be justified by faith alone or without works, one must trust in Christ alone apart from any trust in self. I have been trying to show that this is necessary in order for justification to be by faith alone which is to say by grace alone and by Christ alone.

I received an email this week that responded to some of the things that I have been saying. I would like to use that email in an effort to clear some things up. The email quoted Spurgeon as against Preparationism and then implied that I was teaching the same thing. First, from what I have read Spurgeon was against Preparationism of a certain kind. That is absolutely true. However, would he have necessarily been against what I have been saying? In some of his sermons he would sound like it and in other sermons he would sound like he was for what I am saying. So what do we do? Well, we are to be guided by Scripture first and foremost. Whatever Scripture says we are to follow over and beyond any man.

The Puritans, many of the most important pastors to come to America, and Jonathan Edwards practiced a certain form of evangelism. This is also the type of evangelism used by David Brainerd. This type of evangelism has been referred to as “seeking evangelism” and as “Preparationism.” Those terms are fine as far as it goes. However, there was another type of evangelism that came up and it was also called “Preparationism.” This kind of evangelism gave certain things for the soul to do and if it followed those steps the soul would be saved. In other words, what it really did was to give people works to do in order to be saved. However, the two types of Preparationism must not be confused. I fear that Spurgeon denounced the works oriented Preparationism without distinguishing it from the other kind. In fact, in some of Spurgeon’s teaching he would agree that the soul needs to be prepared before it can be saved. I will give one sermon that was obviously in favor of some form of preparation.

Spurgeon preached on Luke 1:17 a sermon entitled A PEOPLE PREPARED FOR THE LORD. In this sermon he tells us that souls need to be prepared. Let me give several quotes from his sermon:

We sang over and over again those words, “Just as I am,” Just as I am,” and we are prone to protest against the idea of being prepared for Christ; we preach incessantly that no preparation is needed, but that men are to come to Jesus just as they are. Yet here is John the Baptist se apart “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

The fact is, that to get men to come to Jesus just as they are, is not an easy thing. To get them to give up the idea of preparing to get them prepared to come without preparing to get them ready to come just as they are is the hardest part of our work, this is the greatest difficulty….But when we say to them “Come just as you are now, with nothing in your hand to buy the mercy of God, with nothing wherewith to demand or to deserve it,” men want a great deal of preparing before they will come to that point. Only the grace of God, working mightily through the Word, by the Spirit, will prepare men to come to Christ thus, prepared by being unprepared so far as any fitness of their own is concerned. The only fit state in which they can come is that of sinking themselves, abandoning all idea of helping Christ, and coming in all their natural impotence and guilt, and taking Christ to be their all in all.

Beloved friends, this is the true preparedness of heart for coming to Christ, the preparedness of coming to him just as you are; and it was John’s business thus “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” That is also my business at this time.

The headings of points of this sermon I will list below:

  • First, John made ready “a people prepared for the Lord” by AROUSING THEIR ATTENTION.
  • Now, second, John made the people ready for Christ BY AWAKENING THEIR CONSCIENCES.
  • Thirdly, John had “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” BY POINTING OUT THE NATURE OF TRUE RELIGION.
  • A fourth way in which John made ready “a people prepared from the Lord,” he did it BY DECLARING THE GRACE AND POWER OF JESUS CHRIST.

As we can see at least from this one sermon that Spurgeon believed in a type of preparation of the soul. I do not believe that it is much different from what Brainerd taught. Brainerd was trying to get people to see that they could do nothing to save themselves in order to really believe in Christ. In other words, to use Spurgeon’s words, people must be prepared to see that they are unprepared and so come to Christ just as they are. If there is no preparation at all, then there would be no need to teach people about Christ or of their sin. Instead, the whole point of teaching people about their sin is so that they will give up any hope in themselves and so come just as they are. The whole point of teaching people in the Gospel about Christ is so that they will trust in Him and not themselves. The point of preparation as Jonathan Edwards and David Brainerd taught it was so that the soul would be emptied of self in order to come to Christ without anything in their hands at all. The other type of Preparationism was different in that it appeared to be giving people things to do that would assist in their salvation. The Edwards and Brainerd type was to prepare the soul by stripping it of all that the soul trusted in of itself so that it could go to Christ without any merit at all of itself.

Why would Edwards and Brainerd teach men to meditate on sin in order to be broken from sin? Listen to Spurgeon from the same sermon above: “Hence it is a real preparation of men for Christ to convince them of sin.” The teaching of sin does not prepare men for Christ in any other way than to show them that they are sinners and that they cannot save themselves. Why are we to prepare men by teaching about Christ? Spurgeon says this: “If I were to preach to you merely to arouse your attention, to awaken your consciences to a sense of sin, or simply to show you the nature of true religion, yet you would not be prepared for Christ unless you knew something about him, something about his suitableness and his power to save you.”

Who prepares men for Christ? Is it their own effort to do this? No, listen again to Spurgeon: “Only the grace of God, working mightily through the Word, by the Spirit, will prepare men to come to Christ thus, prepared by being unprepared so far as any fitness of their own is concerned.” And again, “He who makes you willing to receive is certainly willing to give. If he has emptied you, and prepared you to receive of his fullness, do not think that he will refuse you when you come to him for it.” In other words, Christ is the One who truly prepares the soul by emptying it of itself, its own merits, and any trusting in itself.

I don’t believe that what Spurgeon teaches in this sermon is any different from what Edwards and Brained taught. We must be emptied of self, but we are to pray for that and seek it by the hand of Christ through His Word. The kind of Preparation that Edwards taught was a preparation in which Christ emptied the soul of all that kept the soul from trusting in Him alone. This is perfectly in line with justification by faith alone and a salvation that is totally be grace alone. Christ does not show the soul its sin and pride because the soul deserves it, but because He shows souls this when He is preparing them to come to Him apart from any merit on their own. Men that are filled with pride and self must be emptied of that by grace in order to come to Christ without any merits of their own. This is what Spurgeon taught. Indeed he was hard on those that tried forms of Preparationism that were steps to salvation by their own works, but he clearly believed that souls must be humbled and taught of Christ in order to be converted. That is all that I have been saying through Brainerd because the Gospel of Christ demands that we trust in Christ alone and nothing in ourselves. Men must be prepared by Christ to come to an end of self.

Justification 20, Humiliation 4

September 23, 2006

Last week we looked at David Brainerd’s comment on the extreme difficulty of people being brought to the point of being utterly undone within themselves. This week we want to focus on the great danger there is of people taking up some self-righteous appearances of it. It is this danger that Brainerd especially dwelt on in his dying days because he was persuaded that multitudes perish in this hidden way. The full quote from just before he died is given below.

Especially, I discoursed repeatedly on the nature and necessity of that humiliation, self-emptiness, or full conviction of a person’s being utterly undone in himself, which is necessary in order to a saving faith, and the extreme difficulty of being brought to this; and the great danger there is of persons taking up with some self-righteous appearances of it. The danger of this I especially dwelt upon, being persuaded that multitudes perish in this hidden way; and because so little is said from most pulpits to discover any danger here; so that persons being never effectually brought to die in themselves are never truly united to Christ, and so perish. (1949 Moody edition of The Life and Diary of David Brainerd, p. 354)

If it is the case that multitudes perish in this hidden way, then there is a great danger of people taking up some self-righteous appearances of it. However, the vast majority of people today do not even see that they must be brought to some point of being utterly undone within themselves. The need for people to be broken from their pride and self-righteousness is not thought of as important in evangelism. However, those who think they believe and those who believe see that there is something to the issue of humility and being broken in heart. Perhaps they are the ones that are taken up with some selfrighteous appearances of this.

Let us review something of the great danger of this. The point that I have been trying to get across is that what Brainerd is teaching is really vitally connected with justification. Therefore, if a person is taken up with some self-righteous appearance of being utterly undone within himself, that person is not really justified but is deceived about it. Why is this? Because a person that is not utterly undone within himself is not really trusting in Christ alone. This must be stressed over and over again. Until a person is utterly undone within himself he will trust in himself to some degree and that makes it impossible to trust in Christ alone. In the days of Brainerd it was the accepted view that people had to be broken in heart and undone within themselves to be justified. Today, however, very few have ever heard of such teaching despite the clarity of it in Scripture.

This should sink into the depths of our hearts and wake us up. What was at one time considered to be vital to evangelism and true religion is now scarcely known. It is not that multitudes now perish because of taking up some self-righteous appearances of this, but now this vital truth is not even known. Now people do not even take up an appearance of it because it is not even talked about. So if vast multitudes perished then because they took up self-righteous appearances of being utterly undone in self, then how much greater is the problem when a far greater number of people are alive and this teaching is not practiced by hardly anyone at all? Could it be that even within orthodox circles where the doctrine of justification is tenaciously held that the teaching of a person being utterly undone is not heard and therefore many are perishing while holding on to an orthodox view of justification? Let me give a quote from Solomon Stoddard, the grandfather of Jonathan Edwards:

There are some who deny the any necessity of the preparatory work of the Spirit of God in order to a closing with Christ. This is a very dark cloud, both as it is an evidence that men do not have the experience of that work in their own souls, and as it is a sign that such men are utterly unskillful in guiding others who are under this work. If this opinion should prevail in the land, it would give a deadly wound to religion. It would expose men to think of themselves as converted when they are not…. But if they do not know any necessity of preparation, they will take the first appearance of holiness for holiness; and, if they find religious affections in themselves, they will grow confident that God has wrought a good work in them. It would, likewise, expose them to bolster up others in false confidence. A man who knows that there must be a work of preparation will be careful how he encourages others that they are in Christ. He will inquire how God has made way for their receiving Christ; but another, who is a stranger to it will be ready to take all for gold that glitters.

May the words of these men that God greatly used in true revival and the conversions of many souls have their proper weight upon us today. Brainerd thought that multitudes perished because they took up with a self-righteous appearance of being utterly undone. Stoddard thought that men who denied this were utterly unskillful in guiding seeking souls. He also thought that if that opinion prevailed in the land that it would give a deadly wound to religion. Indeed the land has very little true Christianity within its borders and there are many who are ready to cry “peace, peace” on souls when there is no peace at all. Surely multitudes of people are perishing within the confines of churches and of perhaps orthodox ministers. Surely this must give us great pause in the way we think and approach evangelism. Surely this should at the very least make us stop and think before we try to encourage people into believing that they are saved and how we guide others to a belief in Christ. We must also consider that Jesus said to the crowds following Him around the country that they must deny self in order to be His disciple. What does it mean to deny self? It means something like what Brainerd meant when he said that a man must be utterly undone within himself in order to come to a saving faith. Remember, justification is by faith without works.

Jesus said that salvation is impossible with men (Luke 18:27). Must men see that salvation is impossible with themselves in order to trust Christ alone for justification? Is that adding to the Gospel? No, it is simply setting out what is needed for man to believe in Christ alone. Paul also gives his testimony to this in Romans 7:

4 Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.7 What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.” 8 But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; 11 for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. 13 Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.

How does Paul describe his conversion? First, we see that the Law was used and applied to his heart. Before that Paul only saw the Law as reaching the outer man, but now he understood that it reached his affections, desires, and deepest wants. Paul saw the Law as that which must be preached in order for man to die to the Law, that is, to die to his own ability to keep the Law. If the Law is not preached, then there is no way for man to know that he cannot keep the rigorous standards of the Law. So Paul thought he was alive apart from the Law, but when the Law came (spiritually pressed on his heart) he saw his sin and he died. In other words, Paul died to self and its efforts to keep the Law because he saw that it was impossible for the flesh to keep the Law. The Law, which is holy, righteous, and good was set out to him and he judged himself by it and its spiritual demands. Paul saw through the commandment that sin was utterly sinful and when this happened Paul was utterly undone within himself.

What happened to Paul needs to happen to every person. People must not only see that they have broken the Law, but that they cannot keep the Law in their hearts at all. They need to be brought to the point where they see that salvation is impossible with men (including themselves) so that they are utterly undone within themselves in terms of having anything to do with their own salvation. If and only if a person reaches that point is that person able to trust in Christ alone for salvation. Are multitudes perishing now because this is hidden from them? Yes, I fear so. Some people will not even preach the Law in evangelism now. Others just try to get people to admit that they are sinners. However, Jesus told people that salvation was impossible with men and Paul said that he had to die to himself in order to be married to Christ. Though it is not popular, I believe Jesus and Paul. If they were right, then justification by faith alone demands that men be utterly broken from self in order to believe in Christ alone.

Justification 19, Humiliation 3

September 18, 2006

For the last two weeks we have been looking at David Brainerd’s quote on the nature and necessity of a person’s being undone in himself which is necessary to a saving faith. David Brainerd used these methods as the basis of his evangelism and for determining true conversion as he went to unreached tribes of Native Americans. As he was close to death, he talked to many people who came to talk to him and it was in light of this that he discoursed on this subject repeatedly. This week we want to look at the part of the statement where he says that there is an “extreme difficulty of being brought to this.” As a reminder, we are looking at justification as the big picture and are trying to see what the biblical teaching of faith will bring to light on this issue.

Especially, I discoursed repeatedly on the nature and necessity of that humiliation, self-emptiness, or full conviction of a person’s being utterly undone in himself, which is necessary in order to a saving faith, and the extreme difficulty of being brought to this; and the great danger there is of persons taking up with some self-righteous appearances of it. The danger of this I especially dwelt upon, being persuaded that multitudes perish in this hidden way; and because so little is said from most pulpits to discover any danger here; so that persons being never effectually brought to die in themselves are never truly united to Christ, and so perish.
(1949 Moody edition of The Life and Diary of David Brainerd, p. 354)

If we look at the New Testament and have it as our authority, we can know that salvation is far harder than many let on. True enough the New Testament teaches that the moment a person has faith that person has Christ and eternal life. But if a person must have humiliation, self-emptiness, and be utterly undone within himself in order to have faith, then the hard part is clear. Jesus taught that one must “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). Here is a teaching that many in our day do not know what to do with other than dismiss it. There is a broad way that leads to destruction and there are many that enter through it. Surely, from the context, the majority of people go by the wide gate and the broad way. Whatever else the text teaches, it teaches us that people want the easy way to heaven, though in reality there is no easy way. Then the text teaches us that the gate to life is small and the way is narrow and there are few who find it. Who knows for sure the percentage of people today who have even a modicum of interest in true salvation, but among that percentage it is only a few who actually find it. Surely, then, Brainerd is correct when he says that it is only with extreme difficulty that people are brought to this.

Jesus also taught the same principle in another teaching just a few verses down from the text above. “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'” (Matthew 7:22-23). Notice that there are many who will have the correct theology in some sense in that they called Jesus “Lord.” These people preached (prophesied) in His name. These people cast out demons and performed miracles. Yet, whatever else they did, they practiced lawlessness. One can even think of their very actions listed in the text (calling Jesus “Lord,” preaching, casting out demons and performing miracles) as also being lawlessness. This would line up with Isaiah 64:6 which tells us that even our righteous deeds are as filthy garments. Or, in the words of David Brainerd, they were not brought to the point of self-emptiness and the conviction of being utterly undone in themselves. They were simply going around doing these things and yet were not emptied of self.

We can see from another related teaching of Jesus that many people make concerted efforts to be saved. “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:24). Many will even seek and strive to enter, but they will not be able. Again, this points to the extreme difficulty of entering the kingdom. But, it might be argued, justification is by faith without works and so how can it be extremely difficult to enter the kingdom since it is all by Christ? That is a good point. However, let us listen to Jesus once more. “Then who can be saved? 26 And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:25-26). Salvation is not only difficult to obtain, but is impossible with human beings. Let those words sink into our ears as Jesus said about another of His teachings. Salvation is impossible for human beings.

The doctrine of justification by faith apart from works is not contrary to the teachings of Jesus. David Brainerd did not teach that we are saved by working hard, but that it is hard for a person to give up on self and trust in Christ alone. If I believe that it is my act of faith that saves me, then I have misunderstood the Gospel and have not been humbled, broken from self, and its strength and pride so that I may trust in Christ alone. The person that comes to Christ and trusts in Him alone must of necessity be one as described by Paul in Romans 4: “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works” (Rom 4:5-6). This text, then, sheds great light on the subject of the person that trusts in Christ alone. This person must be one that does not work at all for justification (v. 5).This person believes in God who justifies and does not trust in any work or works that he does or is capable of. This person is one that is ungodly in and of himself (v. 5). This person and this person alone is the one that God credits righteousness apart from works. Why is that? Because this person has no trust in his own work or works and does not trust in himself at all. In Brainerd’s words, this person has been brought to a full conviction that he is utterly undone in himself. This person is humbled and has reached the recognition of his own self-emptiness.

Now if it is true that a person must reach the point of humiliation and self-emptiness and being utterly undone within himself in order to have faith, then it is clear that a person must also reach that point in order to be justified. It is not a system of works that a person goes through to empty himself that saves, but it is the grace of God humbling a person and bringing the person to see how impossible salvation and justification are to his own efforts and works. It is God working to bring the person off of faith and trust in himself to a point where the person is able to trust in Christ alone. It is the teaching of Jesus in Luke 9:23-26 that anyone that wished to follow Him must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Him. One must deny self and the many facets of self in order to follow Christ. In other words, a person must desire to follow Christ badly enough to deny self. If a person really wants to follow Christ, self must be denied. This is simply another way to say what Brainerd has been saying.

But why is it so difficult to be brought to this? Why is there an extreme difficulty in this? Clearly, the self that must be denied is loved and pampered by many and so they will not deny self. The self that must be denied is the very self that is blinded by pride and the desire for honor. The self that must be denied is the very self that wants to exalt itself instead of deny itself. The self that must be denied is the very self that is at enmity with God and does not want to submit to Him in all things. The self that must be denied is the very self that thinks highly of itself and all of its own works. The self that must be denied is the very self that has a very strong sense of protection of self. When all of these things are looked at in this way, self is a very formidable foe and is incredibly tough to deny in all of its facets. Self hides itself even in good actions and even very religious actions. Self is hidden from itself by pride. Self does not see its own pride because of its pride. Self does not see anything wrong with itself and so does not want to admit the depths of ungodliness that is in the heart of self. Another way to look at it is that self does not want to put its eternal destiny entirely in the hands of God. That is against its independence, its pride, and its self-seeking ways in its own wisdom and strength.

“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.” 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (I Cor 1:18-21). This text and the following text sets out the extreme difficulty of being brought to the point of being entirely undone within one’s own self. “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise” (I Cor 3:18). The major reason that this is impossible for man to do himself is because a proud man will not become foolish in the eyes of others in order to have true wisdom. Another main reason is that a proud and independent man will not become weak in order to have true strength. Man wants to do it himself or at least have something to do himself in order that he may have the smallest thing to boast about. But the Gospel leaves men with nothing to boast about other than the cross of Jesus Christ. Justification by faith without works requires a man to be emptied of himself which he cannot do. This is one reason why faith is the work of God and not man. Man cannot empty himself of self. Self-love will not cast out self-love. God must cast out self in order for there to be faith in Christ alone.

Justification 18, Humiliation 2

September 9, 2006

Last week we began looking at David Brainerd’s quote on the nature and necessity of a person’s being undone in himself which is necessary to a saving faith. As a reminder, we must remember that David Brainerd used these methods of evangelism as he went to unreached tribes of Native Americans. As he was close to death, he talked to many people who came to talk to him and it was in light of this that he discoursed on this subject repeatedly. Let us look at what this dying man thought was so vital to Christianity.

Especially, I discoursed repeatedly on the nature and necessity of that humiliation, self-emptiness, or full conviction of a person’s being utterly undone in himself, which is necessary in order to a saving faith, and the extreme difficulty of being brought to this; and the great danger there is of persons taking up with some self-righteous appearances of it. The danger of this I especially dwelt upon, being persuaded that multitudes perish in this hidden way; and because so little is said from most pulpits to discover any danger here; so that persons being never effectually brought to die in themselves are never truly united to Christ, and so perish.
(1949 Moody edition of The Life and Diary of David Brainerd, p. 354)

If we take a man’s words as he is close to death and knows that he is close to death as those which he thinks are the most vital things, then we see what David Brainerd thought was the most vital thing for the Church. Notice that he also said that he “discoursed repeatedly” on this subject. In other words, this is what he wanted to talk about when people came to visit him. Over and over again he stressed this issue to those who came to see him for the last time as what he thought was most vital. Taking the statement as a whole, we can see that he believed that multitudes were perishing because they were taking up some self-righteous appearances of faith in Christ. Could this be what is happening today? Could it be that a vast number of people who are coming into the Church today are really taken up with some self-righteous appearance of faith? If people were deceived by the multitudes in Brainerd’s day, what are things like today?

Let us take a mind’s tour of evangelism and the doctrine of justification today. The doctrine of justification is hardly mentioned today and so clearly is grievously misunderstood. But if it is misunderstood, then the Gospel is misunderstood today as well. But there are teachings that are cropping up and sweeping many people away from any pretense to the truth. We have the New Perspective movement, the Auburn Avenue Theology group, the Emerging Church movement, and many others who wish to make justification out to be by baptism, works, or just plain being good. The Gospel is under siege by groups like those and others that want to distance themselves from theology and doctrine. However, if we are to look at what Brainerd says, then there is also a problem within orthodoxy.

Brainerd said that it was a “necessity” for a person to be utterly undone within himself because it “is necessary in order to a saving faith.” Can this possibly be true? Jesus said that a person must believe and that person would be saved. But Jesus also said that a person must be turned and become as a child in order to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:1-4). Jesus also said that a person must be born from above in order to see and then enter the kingdom (John 3:3, 5). Jesus also taught that a person must repent or he would perish (Luke 13:1-5). Jesus taught multiple times that a person must deny himself in order to take up his cross and follow Christ (Luke 9:23-26) and even that one must hate his own life (Luke 14:25-33). Let us compare the teachings of Jesus with that of Brainerd.

Both Jesus and Brainerd taught that people must believe which is to have faith in order to be saved. However, people today do not think that Jesus taught that one must be undone within himself in order to be saved. But if we look at what true faith is and what accompanies it, things may appear different. What does it mean to be turned (passive) and become as a child in order to enter the kingdom? Does this contradict the other teachings of Christ where He said that men must believe? No, it shows what is necessary for true faith. For a man to believe in Christ alone without works that same man must be like a small child that receives all things without thinking that he is the one responsible for it. To be turned and to become as a small child defines one aspect of faith. Man must not be a proud person who seeks things only for himself, but is to be emptied of the pursuits of greatness. As the context teaches, the greatest is the most humble. Jesus gave this teaching when the disciples asked who the greatest was. First, you must be turned to be like a child to even enter. Then, the most humble is the greatest. Brainerd taught the same thing when he taught that a man must be emptied of himself and humbled in order to have faith.

Jesus taught that a man must repent or he would perish. Is faith something distinct from repentance or is repentance, as has been said before, the other side of the coin regarding faith? If one has faith, then one has repented. Yet, if one repents then one has faith. The essence of unbelief is pride and self-centeredness. To repent of unbelief is to turn from unbelief to belief. To repent of pride is to turn from pride to humility. To repent of self-centeredness is to repent of the idolatrous self and be turned to centeredness upon God. To be emptied of pride, then, is surely the self-emptiness and full conviction of being utterly undone that Brainerd talked about. What is this self-denial and hating of our own life if not some form of being emptied of self and being utterly undone within one’s self? As we look at the teachings of Jesus as a whole, He did teach that one must believe (have faith) in order to be saved. However, His teachings as a whole define and set out what that true faith is. David Brainerd was simply teaching what Jesus taught using different words. In order to have saving faith one must be humbled and broken from self-effort and pride. It is also true that a person must be broken from his own efforts at being broken from self-efforts and pride. These things come by grace in the Spirit working in the heart what is necessary for faith.

Let us look at the difference of how Brainerd (and Jesus) approached this with the way things are done in the modern day. The modern way of doing evangelism is to try to get a crowd by using virtually any means and then to give a short presentation or message and then ask for people to make a decision or to pray a prayer. The people are never really informed of anything regarding the doctrine of justification and are not really instructed about the cross or of imputed righteousness. They are not instructed of sin or of repentance which means that the nature of unbelief is not taught at all. Rather, people are simply told that Jesus died and all that they need to do is to pray a prayer and they will be saved. How does that fit with justification by faith alone without works? How does that fit with God justifying the ungodly and those who do not work for justification (Rom 4:2-6)? People are not even told enough about sin in order for people to know what they are saved from. They are not told that they are to be saved apart from anything they do and apart from their own strength in order that it may all be by grace. They are not told of what pride and unbelief really are and so how are they to repent of these things in truth?

The method that Brainerd used (and Jesus) was in accordance with justification. The doctrine of justification must inform us how to evangelize and what faith is as well as the nature of faith should inform us about justification. An evangelism that does not take the Gospel of justification by faith without works is not even a true evangelism since it does not demonstrate what a person is to be saved from and it certainly does not even tell of the Gospel or of what faith really is. In other words, we are living in a day in which the true Gospel has virtually been lost. The Gospel is a brilliant light that shines forth with the glory of God and saves sinners who cannot help themselves in any way. The Gospel is for those who are helpless apart from the life of God raising them from the dead. The Gospel is not about people making a choice to say a few words they call a prayer, the Gospel comes to those who are dead in sins and trespasses and tells them about how God saves sinners by justifying them by grace through faith apart from any works at all. If a person has not been emptied of self and of his own efforts, goodness, or works, he is not ready to believe the Gospel.

How many works can a sinner trust in that is declared just by God apart from works? If justification by faith apart from works is true, then we need to instruct sinners about how they should not trust in themselves or in anything they can do. It takes a full conviction that a person is utterly undone within himself in order to trust only in Christ. A heart that is full of pride and self is blinded to its pride and self by its own pride and self. It thinks that it can trust in Christ of itself. It thinks that it can empty self of enough self. It thinks that God would never send such a nice person to hell. The lost man never really sees just how lost he really is without understanding from the Word and the Spirit. The evangelism that does not take this into account is simply not teaching the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus taught that salvation is impossible for man (Luke 18:27) in response to the disciple’s question, “then who can be saved?” We would do well to understand that the Gospel should make men understand that it is impossible for them to be saved apart from the grace and only the grace of God found in Christ. They must understand that the Gospel is not about how they are to look to themselves, but how they are to be emptied of themselves in order to trust in Christ alone. That alone is consistent with the biblical teaching on justification.

Justification 17, Humiliation 1

August 31, 2006

Last week we looked at the idea that saving faith must be of the same kind (though not in strength) as the faith of a faithful and growing believer. We saw from David Brainerd “that the essence of religion consisted in the soul’s conformity to God, and acting above all selfish views, for His glory, longing to be for Him, to live to Him, and please and honor Him in all things.” A little later, Brainerd said that “in like manner, when the soul is fully resigned to, and rests satisfied and contented with, the divine will, here it is also conformed to God.” Now if true religion is seen in the person that is resigned to and contented with the divine will, then surely true saving faith must be in some way like that from the beginning. If that is correct, we must never think that saving faith is apart from turning from a trust in ourselves. This requires a humiliation of soul in which man is humbled to the point that he trusts in nothing of himself. This is required in order to trust in Christ and in Christ alone. This is not an intellectual only belief; this must come from the deepest part of man. There must be a deep humiliation of soul which is being utterly undone in regards to self.The next quote from Brainerd (as promised last week) shows that he firmly believed this. Remember, we are not departing from a discussion from justification at all. But while we are focusing on faith at the moment we are also trying to set out the nature of justification by looking at what faith really is. It is vital to understand something of the nature of faith if a person is declared just if and only if a person has true faith. We deny that a person is converted if a person is way off in his understanding of justification, but surely a person is also unconverted if he is way off with his understanding of faith that justifies. It is also true that a person must have a biblical view of faith in order to have a biblical view of justification. For example, we can imagine a person having a correct view of justification according to a creed. But we can also imagine that a person is so far off in his thinking on faith that of necessity he cannot understand justification in truth. This would be a person that believes that faith is something that he has to work up in order to be saved. He does not really see faith as a gift of God, but as something that is more like a work and he has to work it up himself. One can hold pretty close to an orthodox understanding of justification in a sense and still believe that faith is a work.

While Brainerd was in Boston close to death, he had many visitors that he discussed religion with. He was “peculiarly disposed and assisted in distinguishing between the true and false religion of the times.” His way of doing this is seen from his own words in what he said he discoursed about:

Especially, I discoursed repeatedly on the nature and necessity of that humiliation, self-emptiness, or full conviction of a person’s being utterly undone in himself, which is necessary in order to a saving faith, and the extreme difficulty of being brought to this; and the great danger there is of persons taking up with some self-righteous appearances of it. The danger of this I especially dwelt upon, being persuaded that multitudes perish in this hidden way; and because so little is said from most pulpits to discover any danger here; so that persons being never effectually brought to die in themselves are never truly united to Christ, and so perish. (1949 Moody edition of The Life and Diary of David Brainerd, p. 354)

The above statement is an indictment on our generation and our way of doing evangelism and that is an indictment on the way we treat justification by faith alone without works. A person must really and truly trust in Christ alone for justification and not in anything of himself. Yet in evangelism, which is necessarily connected with justification in reality, men are constantly told of what they must do without telling them that they must not trust in what they do in the slightest. Yet, we are told by many, that if we require people to be humbled and broken so that they will not trust in themselves, we are requiring works. Why is it that the same people who believe that faith is a gift of God think that humility and brokenness which are necessary for faith cannot be gifts of God? Doesn’t it make more sense to think that if faith is a gift of God then the brokenness and humility that precede faith are also His gifts? Pride and faith cannot go together, so if God gives faith as a gift then the humbling of the soul must also be His gift as well. Matthew 18:1-4 still stands firmly against all who would try to say that people do not need to be humbled in order to believe. That is like saying that a person can retain all of his pride and unbelief in his faith. Sorry, but Scripture says that God fights the proud but gives grace to the humble (I Peter 5:1-6). Part of God’s work in the soul to bring it to faith is His gracious work in humbling the soul of its pride that it may trust in Christ alone.

Before we deal with this quote from Brainerd, we must ask just how many people have agreed with him. The majority of Puritans believed it. It was the standard belief until the middle part of the 19th century. Jonathan Edwards was a big proponent of what Brainerd said as was Solomon Stoddard and the early preachers in New England like Thomas Hooker and Thomas Shepherd. Let us turn back to the quote from Brainerd. The first thing that we see here is that he spoke on the nature of “that humiliation, self- emptiness, or full conviction of a person’s being utterly undone in himself, which is necessary in order to a saving faith.” Surely he would have spoken of what those things are, but he also spoke of the necessity of those things as well. It is not just that those things were good and that believers were to obtain them at some point, but he said that these things were a “necessity” and that “which is necessary in order to a saving faith.” Either David Brainerd was wrong about this (as well as Jonathan Edwards and the Puritans) or modern evangelism and therefore the way of looking at justification has departed from the truth in this area.

Let us look at this yet another way. Let us imagine a man that has been evangelized and not told that he must be humbled, broken, and even convicted to the point of being utterly undone within himself. What will that man believe concerning justification? What does he believe about faith and the source of true faith? If he is not utterly undone within himself, he will believe (regardless of what he says) that it is coming from him and he will be right. He has yet to see anything in reality about the Gospel in its spiritual nature because he is still dead in sin and is an enemy of God. A self-centered person that is full of pride and a prideful person that is full of self will not believe the Gospel of the glory of God because he hates the glory of God that shines from the true Gospel. A prideful person that is told about the true Gospel will hate it. A person of necessity must be humbled in order to even see the nature of the Gospel itself. A person that is still full of pride and self cannot love God or anyone else further than his love for himself and that is not the love from God.

As we think of the person above meditating on justification, we cannot imagine that person understanding what it means to believe in Christ and Christ alone for salvation. God is the One who must raise sinners from the dead if they are going to be and give them life. God is the One who must humble the heart of proud sinners or they will never have true faith. God must break the hearts of the proud or those hearts will never trust Christ alone for justification. A proud and self-centered person will never trust Christ alone though he may adhere to the words of the doctrine. Can a person that is not totally undone within himself of himself trust in Christ alone and not himself? Surely that is nonsense. No one will ever truly trust in Christ alone for justification as long as he trusts in himself for something. Men and women will never love God as long as they are full of pride in their soul. No man will ever trust Christ alone for all things until he has been delivered from trust in himself for anything at all.

Let me be a little bold and controversial for just a moment. Are we preaching the Gospel of the glory of God in the face of Christ if we do not teach men that in order to trust in Christ alone they must be undone within themselves in order to be delivered from all trust and hope in self? Frankly, I don’t think we are. We can be as orthodox as a person can be in the doctrine of justification according to words and yet not be orthodox with our teachings that relate to justification. We must teach people that they must be humbled and broken in order to believe in Christ alone or it is likely that we are not teaching the people how to be justified by faith alone apart from works. The justification that is apart from works is apart from any work of man at all. A man that is not undone within himself through the humbling and breaking work that is done by the grace of God through the law is not believing in Christ apart from any and all of his own works.

My space is almost up, but we will continue this thought for a few more weeks. For the moment, however, I would like to focus on two parallel statements: 1. Justification by faith apart from any and all works of man. 2. A person being utterly undone in himself through humility and brokenness as necessary for true faith. As we look at these two statements, we can easily see the parallel. For a person to be truly justified that person must be justified apart from any and all works that he can do. However, until the person is delivered from his pride and self-sufficiency and is utterly undone in himself, he is not able to trust in Christ apart from any trust in himself. I believe with Brainerd that to really believe the Gospel of justification by faith alone one must be broken from the pride of self through humility and brokenness. Can it be any other way?

Justification, Part 16

August 24, 2006

David Brainerd was a man that died young but was used a lot for God. He was a man that was a missionary to the Indians (Native Americans today) that had never heard the Gospel. Jonathan Edwards thought so highly of Mr. Brainerd that he published his biography and journals. The writings that Edwards published have been published in many forms, but the life and labors of Brainerd inspired a vast number of missionaries over the years. We have been looking at justification in general and faith in particular the past several weeks. This week we will be looking at what David Brainerd thought was necessary for a person to be converted which means to come to Christ in faith. His thoughts on this issue were those that helped and encouraged many missionaries and were also in line with the thinking of Jonathan Edwards. We could do worse for our mentors. I will be using the 1949 Moody edition of The Life and Diary of David Brainerd. Mr. Brainerd was in Boston shortly before his death and quite ill at the time. He had many visitors who came to him asking his opinion on certain issues. This man was used of God to reach many people with the Gospel was dying and knew that he was dying. What he gives us is his last view of the essence of true Christianity.

But the third day of my illness, and constantly afterwards for four or five weeks together, I enjoyed as much serenity of mind, and clearness of thought, as perhaps I ever did in my life. I think my mind penetrated with so much ease and freedom into divine things, as at this time. I never felt so capable of demonstrating the truth of many important doctrines of the gospel as now. And as I saw clearly the truth of those great doctrines, which are justly styled the doctrines of grace; so I saw with no less clearness, that the essence of religion consisted in the soul’s conformity to God, and acting above all selfish views, for His glory, longing to be for Him, to live to Him, and please and honor Him in all things…Thus I saw, that when a soul loves God with a supreme love, he therein acts like the blessed God Himself, who most just loves Himself in that manner. So when God’s interest and his are become one, and he longs that God should be glorified and rejoices to think that He is unchangeably possessed of the highest glory and blessedness, herein also he acts in conformity to God. In like manner, when the soul is fully resigned to, and rests satisfied and contented with, the divine will, here it is also conformed to God.

I saw further that as this divine temper, whereby the soul exalts God and treads self in the dust, is wrought in the soul by God’s discovering His own glorious perfections in the face of Jesus Christ to it, as His own work.

If Mr. Brainerd was right about what true religion is, then justification and the nature of faith and conversion must fit or correlate with what true Christianity is. This is utterly vital to recognize. If true Christianity consists in being conformed to God and acting above all selfishness and self-centered things, then the nature of conversion must correlate with that. If true Christianity is discovered and lived by the soul exalting God and treading self in the dust so that God may discover His own glorious perfections in the face of Jesus Christ in the image of our souls, then the nature of conversion must correlate with that too. Clearly justification as a work of God is linked and tied with whatever God does in the soul and that includes sanctification and glorification (Rom 8:29-30).

Let us reflect on this for a few moments. True Christianity does not consist in works and the exaltation of self. It does not mean that the more a person loves him or herself that the more a person will love others. It does not mean that Christianity is some path to financial success or self-realization. No, it means that Christianity is about treading self-centeredness, selfishness, and self-love in the dust so that the glory of God would shine through. God’s glory does not dwell and shine through people who are full of self, but in people who are empty of self. God’s glory does not help people to some form of higher self-actualization or self-esteem, but that glory only dwells where it has no rivals for the glory.

One might wonder where all of this is going since we are ostensibly discussing justification and faith. One, I am trying to set out what the life of true Christianity is so that we can better see what flows from a justified believer. Two, I am trying to set out what true Christianity is so that we can see that the kind of salvation that flows through faith must in some way teach or inform us of what it takes to have true faith. If Christianity consists in the glory of God dwelling in a person through faith to the degree that self is trod in the dust, then saving faith must be something that is consistent with treading self in the dust as well. To put it another way, a faith that saves must be the same type of faith that is seen later on (Col 2:6). The kind of faith that is clearly consistent with Christianity in a mature believer is the kind of faith (though in a different degree) that God will use in order to justify a person.

A few weeks ago I tried to show that all men are born in sin and that means that humans are born in pride and full of confidence in themselves in one way or another. In order to trust Christ, therefore, a person must be brought to the point of not trusting in him or herself. This is exactly what David Brainerd appears to be teaching as well. The soul must be fully resigned to and content with God in order to be conformed to God. However, Ephesians shows us that the same thing is true regarding salvation. “That, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Eph 4:22-24). This text shows that man is to lay aside the old self and put on the new self. One can easily see that one must put of the old self in order to put on the new self. The new self is created in “righteousness and holiness of the truth.”

Let us reflect back to the teaching of the new birth. A person must be born from above (again) in order to see or enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3-5). This new birth is described in Ephesians as being in God (or in the likeness of God) and being in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Now if the new birth in some way is of truth, then the old self of error and darkness must be done away with. If the new birth in some way is in righteousness, then in some way the old self that lives and loves unrighteousness (suppresses the truth in unrighteousness, Rom 1:18) must die to that unrighteousness. If the new birth includes holiness, then sinful actions which are non-holy must be in the process of being done away with.

It might be thought that teaching people that they should refrain from sin in seeking God is works. However, it is God using means to prevent the hardening of the heart in sin. Refraining from sin and non-holiness keeps the heart from greater hardness. A heart that is hardened in pride is the opposite of humility and faith. It should be imperative; then, that we tell people that to come to faith they must be humbled. Matthew 18:3 is so clear that a person must be turned and become like little children in order to enter the kingdom of God. The next verse (v. 4) tells us that the greatest in the kingdom is one who is humbled as “this child.” If a person must be turned and humbled in order to enter the kingdom which is by faith, then certainly a person must be humbled and turned in order to have faith. No one will ever have saving faith in Christ who has not been humbled from his pride and broken from his self-righteousness and independence. By simple definition faith cannot exist where pride reigns. Brokenness and humility must be in the heart where faith is found.

This may sound like this is putting something between sinners and Christ. No, it is removing something which is already there. Next week we will look at a statement of Brainerd’s that will shock most modern people of how a person must be utterly undone within himself in order to be saved. He sounds just like Luther. But back to this week where we have seen that true Christianity is really when the soul has given up on itself and is resigned to and content with God so that it may be conformed to Him. Yet this is all through faith. Humility is necessary for there to be growth in faith. We have also seen that a person that is born from above must be turned and humbled for this to happen. But again, a person is justified before faith. We must also note that pride and self-centeredness are the opposite of faith since faith is trusting in Christ. Can we honestly believe that a person can come to faith in Christ apart from being humbled and broken in heart? David Brainerd and Jonathan Edwards believed strongly that a man must be broken from himself before he could trust in Christ alone. The verses given above also teach that. If a person has to be humbled and broken from self in order to trust Christ, then we see that a person must be broken from self in order to see self as ungodly and not trust in the works of self (Rom 4:2-5). Can it be that Brainerd believed that a person must be humbled in the dust and broken from any work at all to be justified? Yes, that is what he believed. Is that works? No, it is God’s method of delivering us from trusting in works. God humbles the heart through means in order that it may be broken from trust in self and its works to trust Christ alone and so be justified by God.